Governor’s NMA Council Recommends Actions to Maintain Edge in Aerospace and High-Demand Industry Talent

Early commitment to the council’s workforce strategy will help market the state’s extensive training system to local and global employers – a key factor in company siting decisions.    

OLYMPIA, WA – Today, the Choose Washington New Mid-Market Airplane (NMA) Council released an innovative and comprehensive strategy to strengthen the state’s talent pool in aerospace and related high-demand industries.

“Washington’s continued leadership in aerospace – and many other sectors – depends on having the top skills and talent available to meet current and future employer needs,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Collaborative strategies, such as those outlined by the NMA Council today, alongside investments in career-connected education and training programs, will enable every Washingtonian to participate fully in the economy and every Washington company to compete successfully around the world.”

Two independent reports this year confirmed that Washington has the largest cluster of skilled aerospace workers in the country. This lead is challenged, however, by looming retirements of experienced workers and increasing demand for aerospace talent by companies within the industry and throughout the economy – including information technology, maritime and life sciences.

Meeting since March 2018, the NMA Council’s Workforce Development Work Group evaluated the state’s existing aerospace talent pipeline and identified strategies to meet current and future workforce needs. A first-ever inventory of aerospace supportive programs in K-12, technical and apprenticeship training, and colleges and universities was developed, revealing multiple opportunities to strengthen the existing system.

“Our asset inventory is impressive – we have a robust pipeline that is training more workers than other states have employed in their entire aerospace sectors. But we also have gaps, and this inventory shows us where our investments can be better coordinated and leveraged,” said Chelsea Orvella, legislative director for Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), and co-lead of the Workforce Development Work Group.

The strategy identifies 16 recommendations that, when fully implemented, will prepare our state’s workers for meaningful, living wage jobs and provide all employers – in addition to those in aerospace – with a better-trained, highly skilled and innovative talent pool. The recommended investments are critical to meeting the needs of all Washington workers and strengthening our communities, apart from any siting decision for the NMA.

“Washington’s training pipeline benefits more than just the aerospace industry – it prepares people for opportunities across many fields and industries, including information technology, maritime, and more. So investing in the system is really a win-win-win for our entire economy,” said Dr. David Beyer, president of Everett Community College and fellow co-lead of the Workforce Development Work Group.

The governor’s top aerospace advisor immediately took action on an essential recommendation from the report.

Aerospace Sector Lead Robin Toth will oversee development of an annual catalog of education and workforce development programs in Washington that support the aerospace and advanced-manufacturing industry. To date, no single source of information markets the state’s robust aerospace training network to potential students and employers.

“Our education programs produce workers ready to tackle the aerospace industry’s biggest questions,” Toth said. “We need to show companies that if they want to disrupt markets through innovation, they should come here. This catalog will be another tool to help recruit those potential employers to Washington.”

Toth shared her vision for the industry and next steps for the report with TVW’s Austin Jenkins on Inside Olympia.

The report will now be shared with the governor and state leaders for consideration during the upcoming legislative session. The NMA Council will additionally look to collaborate with public and private partners to help implement some of the recommendations in the near term.

Gov. Inslee created the Choose Washington NMA Council to lead a multi-pronged, broad-based, statewide campaign to demonstrate Washington’s position as the site with the lowest risk and highest return on Boeing’s potential investment to design, produce, and assemble the new airplane.

The Choose Washington NMA Council is led by business, labor, education, economic development, and elected leaders. The Council is chaired by Dr. Noel Schulz, a Washington State University engineering professor, and Rick Bender, a former president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

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Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, 206-256-6106

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